Weblog Archives




  Friday   January 14   2005


A Restless Calm…
by Dahr Jamail

I’m typing as mortars are blasting away in the nearby “Green Zone.” Mortars are easy to tell-the higher pitched ‘thunk’ of their launch, then a pause, then a loud boom that echoes through the still night. Blaring sirens wail in the distance, along with the random cracking of gunfire. Nightfall always seems to bring action in this area of central Baghdad-just last night there were many sporadic gun battles out my window.

Earlier today while I was in the al-Adhamiya district of Baghdad the US base there was mortared 8 times. We heard it just after finished huge plates of kebabs at a sidewalk restaurant. After finishing the meal an old woman came to our table and asked if she could take our leftovers.

He took two plastic bags and began dumping our half eaten salads and extra bread into them. She thanked us and blessed us, then began to shuffle off…Abu Talat and I both quickly walked over to her and gave her a small wad of Iraqi Dinars. We walked back to the car not saying a word about it.

Funny that everyone lately is talking about how calm it is here in Baghdad…expecting things to grow so much worse as the election approaches. If this is calm…


This is a must read. The people in the US are so disconnected from the reality they are responsible for. This is a nightmare that must end. An atrocity that the world will not forget.

City of ghosts
On November 8, the American army launched its biggest ever assault on the Iraqi city of Falluja, considered a stronghold for rebel fighters. The US said the raid had been a huge success, killing 1,200 insurgents. Most of the city's 300,000 residents, meanwhile, had fled for their lives. What really happened in the siege of Falluja? In a joint investigation for the Guardian and Channel 4 News, Iraqi doctor Ali Fadhil compiled the first independent reports from the devastated city, where he found scores of unburied corpses, rabid dogs - and a dangerously embittered population

It all started at my house in Baghdad. I packed my equipment, the camera and the tripod. Tariq, my friend, told me not to take it with us. "The fighters might search the car and think that we are spies." Tariq was frightened about our trip, even though he is from Falluja and we had permission from one group of fighters to enter under their protection. But Tariq, more than anyone, understands that the fighters are no longer just one group. He is quite a character, Tariq: 32 and an engineer with a masters degree in embryo implantation, he works now at a human rights institute called the Democratic Studies Institute for Human Rights and Democracy in Baghdad. He is also deeply into animal rights.

Foolishly, I took a pill to try to keep down the flu, which made me sleepy. It was 9am when we crossed the main southern gate out of Baghdad, taking care to stay well clear of American convoys. The southern gate is the scene of daily attacks on the Americans by the insurgents - either a car-bomb or an ambush with rocket-propelled grenades.

It took just 20 minutes from Baghdad to reach the area known as the "triangle of death", where the kidnapped British contractor Kenneth Bigley was held and finally beheaded in the town of Latifya. It is supposed to be a US military-controlled zone, but insurgents set up checkpoints here. As the road became more rural and more isolated, I got nervous that at any moment we would be stopped by carjackers and robbed of our expensive equipment. At a checkpoint a hooded face came to the window; he was carrying an old AK47 on his shoulder and looking for a donation towards the jihad. There were six fighters in total, all hooded. The driver and Tariq both made a donation; I was frightened he would search the car and find the camera, so I gave him my Iraqi doctor's ID card, hoping that would work. He apologised and asked that we excuse him.

Now, there was nothing ahead but the sky and the desert. It was 1.30pm and a bad time to use this road; we had been told that carjackers were particularly active at this time of day. Tariq pointed out four young men dressed in red, their two motorbikes parked by the side of the road. They were planting a small, improvised explosive device made out of a tin of cooking oil for the next American convoy to leave the base outside Falluja.


The Scent of Fear
by Bob Herbert

The assembly line of carnage in George W. Bush's war in Iraq continues unabated. Nightmares don't last this long, so the death and destruction must be real. You know you're in serious trouble when the politicians and the military brass don't even bother suggesting that there's light at the end of the tunnel. The only thing ahead is a deep and murderous darkness.


Falling like Flies
53 Iraqi Parties Withdraw from Elections
by Juan Cole

According to the Al Furat newspaper, 53 political parties and organizations as well as 30 individuals have asked their names to be dropped from the election lists in a bid to show their rejection of elections under US occupation.


The Third Baath Coup?
by Juan Cole

If, as I have argued, the Baathists along with some Salafi (Sunni fundamentalist) allies are behind the guerrilla war, what do they want? They want to drive the Americans out of Iraq and make a third Baath coup, putting the Shiite genie back in its bottle and restoring Sunni Arab primacy.


Scenes From the Bunker

Mr Powell's bleak assessment, less than three weeks before Iraqis are due to elect a parliament, reflects what advisers close to the administration and former officials describe as an understanding in the State Department and Pentagon of the depth of the crisis. But, they say, this is not a view accepted by President George W. Bush . . .

According to Chas Freeman, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia and head of the independent Middle East Policy Council, Mr Bush recently asked Mr Powell for his view on the progress of the war. “We're losing,” Mr Powell was quoted as saying. Mr Freeman said Mr Bush then asked the secretary of state to leave.

Financial Times
Powell gives bleak assessment of Iraq security problems
January 12, 2005

Albert Speer, in charge of armament production, drew up a memorandum to Hitler on January 20 — the twelfth anniversary of Hitler's coming to power — pointing out the significance of the loss of Silesia. 'The war is lost,' his report began, and he went on in his cool and objective manner to explain why . . .

The Fuehrer, Guderian later related, glanced at Speer's report, read the first sentence and then ordered it filed away in his safe. He refused to see Speer alone, saying to Guderian: “He always has something unpleasant to say to me. I can't bear that."

William L. Shirer
The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich


 02:41 AM - link


This little series of photographs gets to the heart of the direction I've been going in camera equipment. These pictures are taken with this Leica IIIf.

Leica IIIf , 50mm f2 Summicron c. 1955

It's very similar to my Leica IIIc, 50mm f2 Summitar c.1949, which is the camera that got me started in this direction. Alas, I can't afford to rebuild it yet but my FED 2 is more than a reasonable subsitute until I can. There is a directness and connectedness shooting these old manual cameras that is missing in the latest digital offerings. They still take great pictures.

London in Love

Italian grip


  thanks to The Analog Photography Users Group

 02:03 AM - link

when the dead are not important — when americans kill them

A man-made tsunami
Why are there no fundraisers for the Iraqi dead?
by Terry Jones

I am bewildered by the world reaction to the tsunami tragedy. Why are newspapers, television and politicians making such a fuss? Why has the British public forked out more than £100m to help the survivors, and why is Tony Blair now promising "hundreds of millions of pounds"? Why has Australia pledged £435m and Germany £360m? And why has Mr Bush pledged £187m?

Of course it's wonderful to see the human race rallying to the aid of disaster victims, but it's the inconsistency that has me foxed. Nobody is making this sort of fuss about all the people killed in Iraq, and yet it's a human catastrophe of comparable dimensions.

According to the only scientific estimate attempted, Iraqi deaths since the war began number more than 100,000. The tsunami death toll is in the region of 150,000. Yet in the case of Iraq, the media seems reluctant to impress on the public the scale of the carnage.

I haven't seen many TV reporters standing in the ruins of Falluja, breathlessly describing how, in 30 years of reporting, they've never seen a human tragedy on this scale. The Pope hasn't appealed for everyone to remember the Iraqi dead in their prayers, and MTV hasn't gone silent in their memory.

Nor are Blair and Bush falling over each other to show they recognise the scale of the disaster in Iraq. On the contrary, they have been doing their best to conceal the numbers killed.


 01:43 AM - link


James Whitlow Delano's Empire: Impressions from China


 01:38 AM - link

polarized express

A Mean and Unholy Ditch
The sleep of reason amid wild dogs and gin

The hardest thing for garden variety American liberals to grasp is what a truly politicized and hateful place much of America has become---one long mean ditch ruled by feral dogs where the standards of civility no longer apply. The second hardest thing for liberals is to admit that they are comfortably insulated in the middle class and are not going to take any risks in the battle for America’s soul … not as long as they are still living on a good street, sending their kids to Montessori and getting their slice of the American quiche. Call it the politics of the comfort zone.

Ever on the lookout for free food and brand name booze, I slipped over into the comfort zone on New Year’s Day, 2005 to a lovely literary party of urbanites who’d flown in from upper East Coast. They all seem to have country places down here in the Shenandoah Valley these days. So as I minced over fresh salmon with a chic liberal book editor, she said: “I am coming to understand how Karl Rove drove so many of the American people to vote for Bush during the election” (pronouncing “people” in that way of overeducated urban liberals everywhere, indicating that she did not consider herself one of them). And I am thinking: “JESUS CHRIST LADY, IT’S NOT AS IF IT WERE A LONG DRIVE!”


  thanks to Bad Attitudes

Riding the Polarized Express

NO torture versus torture. Blue State versus Red State. Liberal versus Conservative. Fahrenheit 9/11 versus The Passion of The Christ. America is riding the Polarized Express - a national train fast approaching a fork in the tracks. One track leads to the republic rediscovered. The other track, to dictatorship and empire.

Sounds extreme?

Consider: we have seen this all before. In fact, just a hundred years ago, at the start of the last century, the politics of the ‘western’ world was disturbingly familiar to ours, with many nations of Europe similarly on the Polarized Express - Germany, Spain, Russia, Italy, and France among others

Back then each nation saw a growing polarization of their electorate. Each nation’s story was a familiar fight between polarized groups, entrenched elites versus oppressed under-classes. The names of these polarized groups varied from nation to nation: leftists, liberals, socialists, anarchists, communists, and republicans on the left; conservatives, monarchists, aristocrats, militarists, fundamentalists, and fascists on the right. But the basic polarization of the divide was the same: the voice of the people versus the voice of the elites.

These polarized groups fought over economic justice, over ‘family values,’ over national pride, over the fear of anarchists (the terrorists of their day), over religious values, over empire, over ethnic superiority. And as the polarization intensified so did the politics and leadership of each nation, moving, election after election, from left to right and then back again.

And in some nations - Germany, Italy, Russia, and Spain - the polarization ultimately snapped the back of democracy. Extremisms of various sorts emerged with a sureness of purpose almost religious in intensity. These “isms” promised social safety and political clarity.

But not all nations on the Polarized Express were victims of anti-democratic extremism. Not all nations lost their democratic soul for the sake of political clarity.


  thanks to Bad Attitudes

 01:34 AM - link


I've been planning to do some night photography so this series is most helpful...

Night Work #1

Over the last year I’ve had a lot of emails concerning night photography. How? Where? What gear? Bob over at NoTraces.com and I have discussed this topic to death while we’re out shooting under the moon and street lamps. I’ve decided to finally try and put a meager attempt at explaining some of this stuff over the coming weeks/months in a series of posts I’ll dub ‘Night Work’. This is the first post…

There are already quite a few night photography tutorials on the internet. Why do we need another? Well, we probably don’t… You just get to have my take on the subject (good or bad), and now I’ll have a place to point people for the basics..! So here we go…

One of my favorite aspects of photography is capturing something the eye can’t see without help of a camera. When you hold the shutter open for a few seconds or minutes you create a new world of airbrushed clouds, streaking stars, switchblade street lights, silken water, and cars zipping by trailing red whiskers behind as they go who knows where. It’s a magical place…


  thanks to Conscientious

Night Work #2

Night Work #3

 01:23 AM - link

social security

The Iceberg Cometh
by Paul Krugman

Last week someone leaked a memo written by Peter Wehner, an aide to Karl Rove, about how to sell Social Security privatization. The public, says Mr. Wehner, must be convinced that "the current system is heading for an iceberg."

It's the standard Bush administration tactic: invent a fake crisis to bully people into doing what you want. "For the first time in six decades," the memo says, "the Social Security battle is one we can win." One thing I haven't seen pointed out, however, is the extent to which the White House expects the public and the media to believe two contradictory things.

The administration expects us to believe that drastic change is needed, and needed right away, because of the looming cost of paying for the baby boomers' retirement.

The administration expects us not to notice, however, that the supposed solution would do nothing to reduce that cost. Even with the most favorable assumptions, the benefits of privatization wouldn't kick in until most of the baby boomers were long gone. For the next 45 years, privatization would cost much more money than it saved.


Survivor Benefits - Not Just For Reality Show Winners:

When the Rude Pundit was an adolescent, his father died. His family, which had worked its way out of welfare, food stamps, and a very nice mobile home park, would have been crushed had it not been for one simple thing: the survivor benefits of the Social Security system. It wasn't a fuck of a lot of money, but between survivor and dependent benefits, the Rude Pundit wasn't sent off to live with creepy Uncle Marvin and his cold, cold fingertips. It was enough to pay the rent. It was enough to supplement Mama Rude's income. See, caught up in the whole debate about privatization is the fact that, really, retirement benefits only make up a portion of what Social Security pays out. In fact, between survivor and disability benefits, retirement makes up a smaller part of the SS pie than you might imagine.

Says reader David S, who was a claims rep for Social Security for 17 years, "Social Security is a social insurance system, with roughly 1/3 of payments going to the severely disabled and 1/3 going to survivors, and 1/3 going to retirees. Any disciplined fool could take the money and beat the retirement benefits today (though that wasn't true in the past), but it would take an astute person to beat the whole package. Disability coverage is freakin' expensive, and your Bushie investment plans aren't going to be much use for that." But we're not hearin' a fuck of a lot about disability and survivor benefits. Certainly not in the "Ask the White House" online chat with Special Assistant to the President on Economic Policy Chuck Blahous, who created the new mantra, "The President does not want to privatize Social Security," even though Bush does want private individuals to control where a private portion of their private Social Security is privately invested. And Blahous has a doctorate in Computational Quantum Chemistry from Berkeley, so random sequences of bizarre numbers are right up his alley.


  thanks to Bad Attitudes

 01:12 AM - link


welcome at myope.com


  thanks to Conscientious

 12:58 AM - link

family values

Sale of spanking tool points up larger issue

On a spring day, Susan Lawrence was flipping through a magazine, Home School Digest, when she came across an advertisement that took her breath away. In it, ''The Rod," a $5 flexible whipping stick, was described as the ''ideal tool for child training."

''Spoons are for cooking, belts are for holding up pants, hands are for loving, and rods are for chastening," read the advertisement she saw nearly two years ago for the 22-inch nylon rod. It also cited a biblical passage, which instructs parents not to spare the ''rod of correction."

The ad shocked Lawrence, a Lutheran who home-schools her children and opposes corporal punishment. She began a national campaign to stop what she sees as the misuse of the Bible as a justification for striking children. She also asked the federal government to deem The Rod hazardous to children, and ban the sale of all products designed for spanking. Lawrence says striking children violates the Golden Rule from the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament: ''In everything do to others as you would have them do to you."


  thanks to J-Walk Blog

 12:54 AM - link


Marja-Leena is a printmaker who lives a little over three hours north of me, in British Columbia (check out her link.) She is a regular reader and has been following my buying binge of obsolete cameras. She read my post on my "new" old 5x7 view camera, saw my interest in large cameras, and offered me this one...

It's an Agfa-Gevaert Repromaster with a 16x20 vacuum back. All I had to do was come up to Vancouver and pick it up. Well, it would actually take a couple of people in addition to myself to pick it up. I was sorely tempted. Really sorely tempted. But I caved in to reality and passed on it. They need the space and the Repromaster is just going to be thrown out. Printmakers used to use cameras like this to make large negatives for printmaking (non-photographic prints). You know the term "camera-ready art"? This is the camera. Now it's all digital. Kind of sad. I wish I could have picked it up. If it was on horizontal rails I might have gone for it. Then I could have done still lifes on 16x20 film for contact prints. Maybe someday.

But I did ask Marja-Leena if I could have the lenses for my view cameras and she said I could! Yesterday she took them out and emailed me: "One lens is 5.6/150 and the other is 9/120 - made by Schneider-Kreuznach." I don't know yet just what model they are and just what they cover but they will be great lenses. They are barrel lens without shutters but that is only a minor problem. I'm very excited to be getting them. Many thanks to Marja-Leena for this help!

But wait! There's more! Yesterday morning, while going through the posts at Rangefinder Forum, I found someone who wants to trade a Jupiter 9 for some film. The Jupiter 9 is a Russian 85mm f2 lens for Leica thread mount cameras like my FED 2. I've been wanting one but they generally go for over $100. This was an extra lens he had and would let it go for $30 worth of film. It needs some relubing but the glass is good. I recently bought 23 rolls of Fuji 120 roll film on eBay for a good price so I was able to trade $30 worth of film retail that I paid $13.10 for. I'm turning into a wheeler dealer.

My photography kit nears completion.

 12:47 AM - link

  Monday   January 10   2005


The Psychology of Christian Fundamentalism
Bible Says

In Apocalypse, a patient study of Christian fundamentalism based on extensive interviews over a five year period with members of apocalyptic communities Charles Strozier identifies four basic beliefs as fundamental to Christian fundamentalism. (1) Inerrancy or biblical literalism, the belief that every word of the Bible is to be taken literally as the word of God; (2) conversion or the experience of being reborn in Christ; (3) evangelicalism or the duty of the saved to spread the gospel; and (4) Apocalypticism or Endism, the belief that The Book of Revelations describes the events that must come to pass for God's plan to be fulfilled. [1] Revelations thus becomes an object of longing as well as the key to understanding contemporary history, to reading the news of the day and keeping a handle on an otherwise overwhelming world. Each of these categories, Strozier adds, must be understood not doctrinally but psychologically. What follows attempts to constitute such an understanding by analyzing each category as the progression of a disorder that finds the end it seeks in Apocalyptic destructiveness.


 12:17 AM - link


Country Fair Portraits

These portraits were made in a portable studio that was hauled from fair to fair in California and Arizona between 1976 and 1980. The studio was complete with darkroom and a shooting stage and it took a crew of three to run it: a shooter (me), a front person to handle customers and a darkroom person to develop and print the 4x5 inch negative. The entire process, when going smoothly, took about fifteen minutes.


 12:11 AM - link


Tomgram: Dahr Jamail on Devastated Iraq

I've been in liberated Baghdad and environs on and off for 12 months, including being inside Fallujah during the April siege and having warning shots fired over my head more than once by soldiers. I've traveled in the south, north, and extensively around central Iraq. What I saw in the first months of 2004, however, when it was easier for a foreign reporter to travel the country, offered a powerful -- even predictive -- taste of the horrors to come in the rest of the year (and undoubtedly in 2005 as well). It's worth returning to the now forgotten first half of last year and remembering just how terrible things were for Iraqis even relatively early in our occupation of their country.

Then, as now, for Iraqis, our invasion and occupation was a case of liberation from -- from human rights (think: the atrocities committed in Abu Ghraib which are still occurring daily there and elsewhere); liberation from functioning infrastructure (think: the malfunctioning electric system, the many-mile long gas lines, the raw sewage in the streets); liberation from an entire city to live in (think: Fallujah, most of which has by now been flattened by aerial bombardment and other means).

Iraqis were then already bitter, confused, and existing amid a desolation that came from myriads of Bush administration broken promises. Quite literally every liberated Iraqi I've gotten to know from my earliest days in the country has either had a family member or a friend killed by U.S. soldiers or from the effects of the war/occupation. These include such everyday facts of life as not having enough money for food or fuel due to massive unemployment and soaring energy prices, or any of the countless other horrors caused by the aforementioned. The broken promises, broken infrastructure, and broken cities of Iraq were plainly visible in those early months of 2004 -- and the sad thing is that the devastation I saw then has only grown worse since. The life Iraqis were living a year ago, horrendous as it was, was but a prelude to what was to come under the U.S. occupation. The warning signs were clear from a shattered infrastructure, to all the torturing, to a burgeoning, violent resistance.


The Mire of Death, Lies and Atrocities: Robert Fisk Looks Back at 2004

Well, I think that the whole project in Iraq is finished. We are not being told by Mr. Blair in my case and Bush in yours that this is the case, and perhaps through their own misjudgment or their own fantasies, they don't even accept this themselves. But the American project for democracy or whatever its real purposes were, for oil, economic expansion, Middle East fit for Israel, whatever it may have been, that project is finished. It is hopeless. It cannot succeed. The insurgency in Iraq is so great now that American troops, however enormous their technology, cannot control it. The Iraqi so-called ministers, and I include Iyad Allawi, the so-called interim prime minister, who was of course appointed by the Americans as a former C.I.A. asset, they behave like statesmen when they tour the world or turn up in Washington, but in Baghdad they're not even safe inside their little Green Zone. They're not even the Mayor of Baghdad, they have less power than the town clerk. So, we have reached a stage now where insurgents control much of the country. The only safe part of Iraq is Kurdistan in the north, which is effectively an autonomous region, outside of the control anyway of the Iraqi government. And the elections, which are coming up, appear doomed because already we're hearing that if the Sunnis won't take part, the Americans are trying to persuade the unelected government to appoint Sunni Muslims to make up for the voters who didn't vote. This is not an election, this is a charade. And what has happened is that the alienation of the Iraqis as a people from the West has been brought about by lunatic policies by the State Department and by the Pentagon, I'm afraid by the behavior of American troops and a lesser expect, but nonetheless culpable British troops and by the fantasies, which drove this war in the first place, the idea that we were going to suddenly create democracy in the Middle East. One of the things I have been studying for my new book on the Middle East, which comes out this year, is what happened when the rebellion first occurred in 1920, the time of which Lawrence of Arabia was talking, against the British military in Iraq. And exactly the same pattern took place. The Sunni Muslims became disenfranchised. The British laid seize to Fallujah, they laid seize to Najaf. The prime minister, in this case Lloyd George rather than Tony Blair, said if we believe there will be civil war and British military intelligence in Baghdad claimed that the terrorists were arriving - in 1920 this is - from Syria. Same old sorry. So I am afraid that even if you look at the pattern of history, there is no hope. If you look at the pattern today there is no hope. We come back to the equation, which I think I have set out on your program before, that the Americans must leave, and the Americans will leave, and the Americans can't leave.


Training? Who needs training
by Steve Gilliard

Analysis: Iraq War Taking Toll on Army

Murder Inc is back
by Steve Gilliard

 12:06 AM - link

  Sunday   January 9   2005


Some amazing portraits.

Lloyd Erlick

Naughty Nana (Two), Sep 2001
(Three Generations)


 11:29 PM - link

No Peace in Palestine

There will be no peace in Palestine. Don't be fooled by statements of politicians and by the press's careful avoidance of reporting the real facts of the situation.

The bulk of the Jewish settlements – around 200,000 people – are in the West Bank. The Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, has made it plain that he has no intention of: (1) removing these settlements; (2) returning East Jerusalem to Palestinian control; or (3) acknowledging the right of return or compensation of the Palestinian refugees. These are the three things that killed the last peace plan. It doesn't matter who the Palestinian leader is – no Palestinian can surrender on those three points.

Sharon's plan to "withdraw" from the Gaza Strip is just a ploy to postpone any serious peace negotiations. The small Jewish settlements in Gaza are just a pain to the Israelis. Not only do they have to be constantly guarded by the army, but the roads to them have to be guarded. Even if they are completely dismantled, Gaza will just become one giant concentration camp for Palestinians.


 11:23 PM - link


Some nice found photographs.



  thanks to Street Photography mailing list

 11:19 PM - link


Are we doomed?
Jared Diamond, author of "Guns, Germs, and Steel" and "Collapse," says that if America doesn't change its ways it'll go the way of the dodo -- no matter what Bill Gates, George Bush or Michael Crichton says.

Most of what we read we already know. Very rarely does a book come along that changes our whole way of thinking -- not just the facts, but how the facts fit into the larger scheme of things, and what that scheme actually is. Such books do not make for easy reading. Working against the grain of accepted truth, they require a lot of grappling, but once finished the reader emerges permanently altered.

Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" was such a book. In it, Diamond asked why European and Asian civilizations tended to prevail over others -- why, for instance, Francisco Pizarro, with 168 men, prevailed over 80,000 Incan warriors in 1532. Because (we are accustomed to thinking) Pizarro was an exceedingly greedy, ruthless opportunist who took advantage of the Incas’ naiveté. Which is certainly true. But it is also true that he was not the world’s only greedy, ruthless opportunist. More important, Diamond suggested, were the guns, germs and steel -- as well as a host of other advantages -- that Pizarro brought with him from Europe.

Diamond's new book, "Collapse." looks at civilizations both ancient and modern in search of the reasons why some succeed and others fail. The answers, not surprisingly, turn out to be largely environmental. The more gripping question is why many civilizations were unable to avert destruction.


I read "Guns, Germs, and Steel". Based on that, "Collapse" is not to be missed.

 11:13 PM - link


I lived in Japan during the late 1950s, as a teenager. That's when I became a Sumo fan. Kurt Easterwood, who currently lives in Japan, posted the following about the link following his post. (Do you follow?)

Intelligent and entertaining writing about Sumo stable life

With the first Sumo basho of the year just a few days away now, I crossed paths tonight with this wonderful ii timingu (good timing) find:

In the Hall of the Mountain Kings: One little man's journey into the world of sumo wrestling

It's by one Jacob Adelman, a grad student at UC Berkeley who has just spent a couple of weeks at Hanaregoma Beya in Tokyo's Suginami Ward, not with the purpose of becoming a professional sumo wrestler but just to write about it for his Master's thesis, and write about it he has done for the last 3 weeks in this blog. As Adelman explains it in his first post:

The idea for this project, like many things in my life, was born out of laziness. The two masters' degree programs I'm in—journalism and Asian studies—each require me to write a thesis. When I started considering thesis topics, I tried to think of something that I could count for journalism and Asian studies, thereby saving myself the trouble of writing a second thesis. Everyone I ran the idea past was intrigued by it, though no one thought I might actually get a sumo "stable," as the training houses are called, to let me in.

Through some tenuous connections Adelman is eventually allowed to temporarily join the Hanaregoma Beya. He is clear with his hosts as to what he's up to (and even had he not, his uh, not exactly sumo-ish build would've let the cat out of the bag fairly quickly), and as he himself notes, it seems that many of the wrestler's in the stable are eager to chat. And while Adelman originally had wanted to be treated as a rookie within the stable, in effect he was treated as a guest, and therefore had access to parts of the heya (and conversations with some of the rikishi) that most rookies will never have.


In the Hall of the Mountain Kings
One little man's journey into the world of sumo wrestling

So there I was, alone in the upstairs bedroom, snooping through Iki's photos. I was about to put them down and move back to my little encampment on the floor when I noticed the laminated image taped to his metal briefcase. It seemed to an advertisement that featured him holding a bottle of MOET champagne while he did a variation of his "Japanese geisha boy" pose. I was trying to puzzle out the writing on it when I heard someone coming up the stairs. I rushed back to my rolled-up futon and leaned back, pretending to read book


 11:05 PM - link

social security

Gimmie back my money

This is going to go the way of Iraq for the President.


Because when people realize that the President wants to convert social security into a national 401K plan, the reaction will not be pretty. Because it will hang on one simple question: what if I lose money? And they have to run into the buzzsaw of AARP? You can imagine the commercials.

The problem is that only the ideologues are behind this, and the opposition will be fierce once people realize the stakes. Now, if we lived in James Glassman's Dow 36,000 world, it would be a much easier sell. But the facr is that most people have taken serious losses in the market over the last five years.

The comparison between tax cuts and killing social security is limited. Tax cuts are low risk for people, this is not. If this doesn't go well, people die. If you lose your money in the 2020 version of EToys, and it's federal money, your federal retirement money, who gives it back to you?


 10:08 PM - link

another commie camera

I'm now set up in the 6x6 square department. I won an auction for a Flexaret Va. A wonderful Czech TLR. This has a better lens than the Flexaret IIIa that I have. The one I have also has some film advancement problems. Thank goodness for the red window. I will be using these for portraits. I love the square format for taking pictures of people.

It will take a few weeks to get here but I will be using my IIIa in the meantime. My daughter, Jenny, is running off to Seattle for a couple of days to be with her husband before he returns to Iraq next Sunday. I will be doing babysitting duties over the next two days with my grandchildren — a 6 year old, a 5 year old, and a 7 month old. Picture taking will ensue.

I forgot that I had put up a test shot from the Flexaret IIIa. The link goes to a large higher quality image.

Art Gallery

Not bad for a three element lens. The Va that's coming has a better lens. I'm excited.

 10:01 PM - link